Eight LIRR unions approve labor contract, union leader says

Members of the unions representing most Long Island Rail Road employees have overwhelmingly approved the four-year-long labor contract negotiated in July with the Metropolitan Transit Authority, a union leader said Aug. 15, 2014. (Newsday file footage)

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Members of the unions representing most workers on the Long Island Rail Road have overwhelmingly approved the four-year labor contract negotiated last month, a union leader said Friday.

About 95 percent of the members of the eight unions voted in favor of the contract, according to Anthony Simon, general chairman of the United Transportation Union and the lead negotiator for the coalition of unions. He said he did not have the breakout of each union's vote or the raw vote total.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, parent agency of the railroad, said it had no further comment on the contract, which it described as "fair and reasonable" at the time it was reached.

"This was an absolutely unprecedented margin of approval," Simon said. "I'm very pleased that we could deliver this contract for our members and for the riders. With the governor's steadfast push to get this done, we did it."

Dean Devita, an official of the union representing about 90 stationary engineers at the railroad, said, "It's been four long years since our workers had a raise. Long Island is the most expensive place in the country to live, and it's been hardship for them."

The MTA and the unions, with prodding from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, reached the deal July 17, averting a strike set for three days later by some 5,400 workers.

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The contract provides a 17 percent raise over 61/2 years to the workers, who average $87,000 a year. It also requires workers to begin paying for health care at a rate of about 2 percent of their weekly wages. New employees would pay into their pensions for 15 years instead of 10.

Negotiations are continuing between the MTA and three smaller unions.

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